Ricky Jackson landed behind bars back in 1975 when he, along with brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, were falsely accused of killing a man, Harold Franks, outside of a corner store.
About two years ago, the key witness recanted his statement and came clean about the devastating lie he told in order to save his family.
The witness, Eddie Vernon, was only a 12-year-old boy at the time of the murder but since he was considered the only witness who saw the killing unfold, a jury relied heavily on the young boy’s version of events.
When presented with a line up of suspects, he pointed to Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers as the murderers—but not because he saw them commit the crime.
In fact, the now 58-year-old admitted he never saw what happened but claimed officers forced him to decide whose life would be ruined that day—his own or Jackson’s. Vernon said that detectives threatened to put his parents in jail if he did not imply that Jackson and the Bridgemans were responsible for the murder.
In reality, Vernon has no idea who committed the murder because he was on a school bus when he heard the fatal gunshots. He never saw who pulled the trigger. By the time he turned to see what happened, the killer or killers had already made their exit.
Meanwhile informants were tracking down another more likely suspect in the shooting, a man that was later convicted for his involvement in a string of armed robberies.
When informants told investigators about the new suspect, their leads were ignored and the officers insisted on putting Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers behind bars instead.
He filed a lawsuit against the officers and the city of Cleveland on Tuesday although he did not specify how much money he is seeking.
So far, he has received roughly $1 million from the city as a part of a $2 million settlement for the decades he spent in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers are directly responsible for Jackson’s unlawful imprisonment and must now bare the consequences of their actions.
With 39 years behind bars, it is believed that Jackson is now the unfortunate title-holder of the record for the most time spent in prison for a crime one didn’t commit. He received a life sentence for the crime and very well could have died in prison if the witness never came clean about what happened.
In addition to seeking damages for false imprisonment, the lawsuit also alleges that the officers abused Jackson while he was in custody but avoided getting caught by using a phone book to absorb the blows. The lawsuit claims that the officers placed the phone book on Jackson’s face before beating it, allowing Jackson to feel the pain of their blows without actually leaving any suspicious marks on him.
Four of the officers involved in the tragic case have already passed away.